Recently we ministered at a wonderful church and the service went great and afterwards the pastors said to us, "Thank you so much for coming in and saying what we can't say." I hear that all the time when I preach at places. I hear it from America, to Africa, from small towns to large ones. Now, let me say I totally understand. This is how I lived for all of our years in ministry until we came to Florida. And I don't look down on people nor blame them for feeling that way or running the church that way. Pastors who wait for a guest speaker to come in and say what they evidently can't say are in abundance and are also in a very tough situation. Let me tell you, church people have NO IDEA what pastors go through. Did you know a survey was done of the most stressful jobs in America and pastor came in at #2. [The number one spot went to dentists. Evidently a lot of them even commit suicide or have breakdowns. The reason given was because most people hate going to the dentist and so they are used to people dreading coming to see them. Also, they are doing tedious work in a small space - people's mouths - all day long.] Over the coming weeks, I am going to do some posts about what your pastor wishes they could just bring out in the open and tell you, but some fear to. I want to share with you the ins and outs of what makes some of them very stressed out and what you can do to help them.
In our previous pastorate, we would go through difficult situations of various kinds, just as all pastors do. A few times a year we would have a guest speaker and although we wouldn't tell them the problems beforehand or ask them to address certain things, Larry and I would pray our hearts out that the visiting minister would come in and "say what we couldn't say." (Translation: say what we would say if we didn't have the threat of World War III breaking out in the church, or being forced to resign because we simply laid the issues honestly on the table.)
I remember at a previous pastorate how we prayed and fasted for a season, believing for God to speak to a guest evangelist to deal with some things that were current problems in the church. One lady had been giving us serious issues for some time. There were even times she would inappropriately interrupt the service. One time she had the gall to approach the pulpit when my husband was ministering and said, "The Lord has told me to take this service in a different direction." Of course he didn't put up with that and told her to sit down. She did but she would push the envelope constantly and it was so draining to deal with. We prayed that the evangelist would get a Word from God and deal with this lady. Lo and behold he called her out right there in the service and dealt with her! He gave her a word of knowledge and said, "you are out from under the authority of the pastors and have a critical spirit and need to submit to the pastors and the leadership of this church." We hadn't told the evangelist anything. This was a total God thing. And, the service where this happened the lady said NOTHING to show her true colors-- she was just quietly sitting in her seat.
When all this was happening I was playing the keyboard in the background as he ministered and it was everything I could do to not show emotions as all this happened. I kept a poker face, and just stood there and played when the evangelist corrected her but afterwards when we went home, I jumped up and down and was leaping and praising God. So, why didn't I just deal with her? We were in a political hornet's nest. We feared for our ministry, our family, our livelihood. It's the place where way too many pastors find themselves.
So, when I moved to Florida I said, "never again." I am NOT going go all year long with unaddressed situations, afraid to say it like it is, just praying that a guest comes in and "says something I can't." I thought, "I'll say it like it is plain and simple, and if they don't like it, I'll resign and go be a greeter at Walmart and hand out smiley stickers." Seriously. I am NOT kidding.
And that's how I've lived for the last 7+ years!
Occasionally we have speakers come in who will say things in our church here like, "Now, I'm telling you folks this...your pastor would probably like to tell you this but he/she can't do that..." and our people look puzzled as if to say, "what are you talking about? There's really not much if anything that our pastors would not dare to say."
I do realize that many pastors are understandably afraid.. They aren't ready to pack their U-Haul and start passing out the smiley stickers and go on government assistance and then explain to their kids that they have no money for school clothes or supplies simply because Daddy or Mommy had to speak the truth about something in church. I get it...really I do. But I'm not afraid anymore and haven't been for a long time. So here's what's up. I'm writing a series of posts coming up..."what your pastor wants to say but can't." This is going to be so fun. Because a lot of people who are church folks across the nation and beyond read this blog and hopefully it will open some eyes as to what your pastor really thinks but might not ever dare to tell you.
For those who wonder what my church people are going to think reading these posts, not to worry...they've heard all this already -- and more. And, they seem to want to keep me around for a really long time despite it. Or maybe even because of it...